This slowly and surely upwardly-mobile Eastern suburb of Sydney is a bit of a conundrum. Around 1788, when Sydney was first settled by the English, bringing their refuse in tow, the area now known as Surry Hills was a barrier to the early settlers. It was a geographical obstacle to the wilds of southern Sydney and more than one early chase of indigenous Australians moved through its terrain.
As the town grew, Surry hills became known as a den of iniquity, a place where a good citizen would not be caught dead. It gave rise to the term "Razor Gangs"; bands of extremely poor youths that attempted to move forward with not impetus, but with a blade. At one point, the suburb became known as razor hills. Gangs such as the reservoir push, named after one of the first water reservoirs in Sydney, made this area a total no go zone for the fledgling middle class of nineteenth century Sydney.
One of the first breweries in Sydney was located in Surry Hills, down hill from a cemetery. Its ground water source gave rise to its street name - "Dead man's beer"
Some 200 years on, Surry Hills is gaining in reputation, real estate price and esteem; commanding housing prices that would make a sensible person blush. However, it does have a lot of desirable elements; close proximity to the city (a bare 2 km), a plethora of trendy bars and restaurants as well as an all too hard to find sense of community in a large city. However, old habits die hard.
My great Aunt passed some 13 years ago. In her time she was not only a celebrated cabaret singer, but a shrewd real estate agent as well. Upon her deathbed, myself at the tender age of 18, she asked where I was living; "Surry Hills", I replied.
Aghast, she said - "That will be the end of you"
I love it here.